Marlin Wilburn is determined to do more than simply improve the aesthetics of the City of West Palm Beach. As the owner of Marlin’s Landscape LLC, the small business owner is planning to use his recently awarded City contracts to also inspire local youth to view landscaping as viable career paths for themselves.
Marlin’s Landscaping is one of nine local small business enterprises to have been recently awarded contracts through the City’s Sheltered Market program, which is administered by the Procurement Department. The Sheltered Market program is created for only certified small business enterprises (SBEs) to be able to bid on contract opportunities valued at $500,000 or less. The ‘shelter’ allows SBEs to compete against each other instead of larger enterprises.
Thanks to that program, Wilburn bid on and was awarded a $100,000 contract to provide lawn maintenance and landscaping services for city-owned properties. His company, along with Property Works and Vincent & Sons Landscaping, were awarded $362,721 to provide right-of-way mowing services; and Marlin’s Landscaping was one of four companies to be awarded $225,000, collectively, for the provision of lot clearing services. Three additional companies were awarded $162,000 for demolition services.
Wilburn, 33, is a West Palm Beach native and third-generation landscaper. For him, the business is personal.
“I love my job because I get to work in my own backyard; everyone knows me,” he said. “This is my city. I’m from West Palm Beach. Who else is going to make sure it looks good?”
In addition to employing a staff of six, Wilburn plans to train young people, ages 18-24, in how to become skilled in his field. Working in partnership with the Urban League of Palm Beach County, he wants to offer them six-week internships, assisting with the City’s projects.
“I want to use these opportunities to help the youth,” he said. “I plan, hopefully, to hire some full-time.”
When he began re-tooling the City’s Procurement programs to be more accessible to SBEs, this “trickle down” of business-ownership and employment is what Director Frank Hayden had in mind. In 2016, the Procurement Department introduced new programs to help SBEs be more competitive in the City’s bid process. They include the Sheltered Market Program, bid equalization, the elimination of the Good Faith effort and new small business thresholds. Hayden has set a goal to increase the number of small businesses certified by the City by 5 percent annually and to increase the number of dollars spent with certified businesses by 5 percent annually, as well.
“Our first goal is to grow the City’s database of qualified small businesses certified to work with West Palm Beach with an emphasis on engaging more women-owned, minority-owned and small- business enterprises. We’ve streamlined the paperwork to make it simpler and less time-intensive,” Hayden said. “Once certified, business owners are strongly urged to contact my department to learn how the Sheltered Market, bid equalization and small business thresholds work for them.”
Currently, the Sheltered Market program is soliciting bids for construction services for American Legion Post 199’s renovation.
“If more small business owners become part of this program, they could potentially be in a position such as Mr. Wilburn’s and be creating more jobs and more opportunities for residents in this City who want to work. That is the ultimate goal – to raise the tide for all boats,” Hayden said.
For SBEs that are interested in learning more about the programs, the Procurement Department is holding a “Meet The City” networking event from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, May 24, 2018, at the Armory Arts Center, 811 Park Place, West Palm Beach, FL 33401. RSVP to Aisha Darrough at 561-822-1200
The The City of West Palm Beach Procurement Department offers opportunities for all suppliers, including small businesses. It values business relationships and strives to promote fair and equitable treatment of all suppliers. To learn more about its procurement opportunities in the area of goods and services, construction and professional services, visit www.wpb.org/procurement or call 561-822-2100.